Verstappen denies claims Red Bull is ‘making a car for him’

Max Verstappen has rejected claims that the cars he drives at Red Bull have been specially tailored to suit his driving style, often at the expense of benefitting any of his team mates.

Verstappen was dominant in 2023 with 19 wins from 22 races. Sergio Perez claimed only two early wins in the same car and struggled during the middle of the season after the car received upgrades, especially in qualifying.

Perez had spoken of needing to continually adjust his approach to suit the RB19, leading to speculation that the car had been hand-crafted to meet Verstappen’s strengths. But the driver insists that’s not the case.

Verstappen told in an exclusive interview that talk of his unique driving style was “overblown” and that he has to adapt the way he drivers to suit the car needs just like anyone else.

The accepted wisdom in the paddock is that Verstappen prefers a car with a strong front end and can deal with a less stable rear, but the three-time world champion said it wasn’t that straightforward.

“When people ask you: ‘What is your driving style?’, I can’t tell you,” Verstappen said. “It’s about being able to adapt to certain situations or what the car likes as well.

“What do I want? I want more grip,” he continued. “There’s a lot of things that you want; some things are not realistic, so I just adapt to the car that I get given.”

Verstappen firmly denied claims that the team’s development work during the season was focused on making it more suited to the way he drove.

The team just applies upgrades to the car to make it faster, not to try and follow a certain balance direction or whatever,” he insisted. “It’s just overall load, overall grip, that you gain from upgrades.

“I’m quite happy with the behaviour of the car, but if the car is a little bit more understeery then I have to adapt my driving to that. Or if it’s more oversteery, it’s the same way.

“Some races you have more oversteer or more understeer anyway,” he added. “It’s very up and down in terms of balance, it’s not always on the nose. Some tracks you cannot run it like that.”

Despite its race day dominance, Red Bull hasn’t always been as good in qualifying. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc pipped Verstappen to pole five times, with Carlos Sainz, and Lewis Hamilton, and Sergio Perez also coming top twice

“I think the other people are having a great qualifying but then not a good race, if you know what I mean,” Verstappen said when asked why this might be the case.

“I don’t think we do anything magic in the race,” he added. We do our normal offset.

“You always look at the race performance but we also want to be quick in qualifying,” he said. “It’s nothing weird that we do just to purely focus on the race.”

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